What's Goooooooood Party People??!
So today I have a set to share with you that is very near and dear to me for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it's the first influential shoot I've gotten Ray Slice to do (And he got very bloody in the process). Secondly, the meaning of the shoot itself. I have done a few of shoots now where I make literal (and satirical) visual representations of everyday sayings, proverbs, etc. For example, my piece "My Eyes Are Up Here".
This shoot was no different but with a more significant message. "To Be An Artist" is a visual representation of what it feels like to be...
...well, an Artist.
With our work, artists are constantly "wearing our hearts on our sleeves". By having something so dear to us in the open, in this situation our art, artists are constantly vulnerable to the outside world. Especially when as artists, we want to touch others with our work. To do that, we must present our work to the world and take the risk of it being misunderstood, ridiculed, or the absolute worse in my opinion, ignored. In a way, we have to make ourselves blind to the ridicule, lack of recognition, and misinterpretation of our work to continue creating. Our hearts take a beating but in the end we rise above. Because that's what artist do. We live to create. We know we are at risk of feeling pain and not always living up to our expectations for ourselves, but we go through it because nothing else would give our lives as much purpose.
Honestly ask yourself, "Would it even be worth it without the pain?" I mean shit, isn't that where the inspiration comes from? Without the bad times in our artistic journey how can we fully appreciate the good? Heck, how can you fully appreciate the beauty of LIFE without some bad times? How can we be motivated to keep growing and learning if were not pushed? This shoot isn't to show what is wrong with being an artist. It's simply a realization and a way for non-artists to understand what it's like to be one. It's why so many artists numb themselves with drugs to get out of their head from overthinking. I'm not condoning it but shit, I get it. That's all for the write-up but keep reading for a behind the scenes look of how the shooting process went for this concept.
Now that you've seen the final product and have a good understanding of the concept, I'd like to share how I got the photos.
Usually, I don't show the step-by-step process of what it took to produce a final image but for this set I'm making an exception. With a shoot like this, I am looking for that ONE shot that encompasses the entire concept. With this shoot, I got there within 50 shots. Any photographer knows that this is a magnificent achievement with a complex concept. Usually, my photoshoots will get to 300-500 shots easily. So sit back and grab a drink and "Leh Ged Ih"! (Let's Get it)
Now to understand my frame of mind when doing a photo shoot in the studio, I first have to explain my style of shooting. Well, at least my attitude toward's it. My mentor Snoop broke it down to me like this when I mentioned that I was thinking of buying a light meter.
"Have you ever used a light meter before?" Snoop said in that arrogant way when he already knows what I'm going to say and is waiting for the answer so he can continue. "....No" I reluctantly replied.
Snoop chuckles, "Exactly, WE are NOT photographers. We are painters. The only difference is that we use light as our medium. The set is your canvas, and the model is your subject waiting to be painted. You have the eye to know when your lighting is right. Why the FUCK would you need a machine to tell you what to set your camera to?"
He was completely right, and ever since that day I can barely call myself a photographer.
I am a painter. And man do I LOVE to paint.
Now for a bit of clarification. What I consider "painting" is when I can FULLY control every light source that is hitting my subject (i.e. studio work), and this shoot is a perfect example of that. You will see some of the key events that occurred that eventually got us to our final shot.
Now, of course, there was a good deal of post production to get our final product. That's a story for another day if anyone would like me to go that deep. I feel this post is getting pretty long as it is, and your attention span ain't shit. No offensive, I'm just as guilty, it is what it is. But enough rappin, let's get into these shots.
Shot 1 of 50 - Light Testing
Like every shoot, I start with light testing. I like to do this a couple days before the actual shoot if I can. Instead of using a model I typically use my assistant (for this shoot I had fellow photographer Scottie Jay), another model or if all else fails, myself. This way, when I do the actual shoot, there's no wasted time figuring out the initial light set-up since I already know how to set up the look I want. On this day, however, Scottie and I did light testing right before the model (Ray Slice) got to the studio. Use the down time on your set wisely. There's a lot you could be doing while make up and hair take a hour.
Shot 12 of 50 - Warming Up
At this point, Slice is now on set. To start getting towards what I'm looking for, I don't use the special effects like the fake blood. These initial shots are to get Slice comfortable and warmed up to the concept. This way, he can get a better idea of what I'm looking for and I can see how much direction in his modeling is needed to get the shot I'm looking for.
Shot 20 of 50 - Happy Little Accidents
So before shot 20 I'm not happy with what I'm getting. It was generally too bright and I wasn't getting the grungy aura and emotion that I was looking for. Then when I took this shot, the main light I had on an umbrella didn't go off, but my color fill lights did. It was a lot closer to what I was looking for so I turned off my main light and turned up the rest a stop or two and kept shooting. Knowing when to back up and see that something in your initial plan isn't working is an important lesson to remember. Don't let your ego get in the way of your potential. Everyone makes mistakes.
Shot 25 of 50 - More Emotion
At this point, I'm very happy with my lighting so now I'm focused on what and how much emotion I'm getting from Slice. He's getting into his character, so we start using the fake blood which gets him even more into character. Power of props bruh.
Shot 44 of 50 - Vinegar Strokes (Google it)
Now this is pretty close, but still not there. (See what I did there?) Ray randomly put his other arm up and it worked. Unfortunately, his body language isn't conveying the message I want to portray. It's less artful pain and more gorilla about to throw a heart at you. Awesome picture, but not what were going for.
Shot 50 of 50
And this shot is where I put the camera down and ran around the studio like I just hit the game winning 3-pointer as the buzzer rings. When I get a shot like this I know I'm done. The concept that I've seen in my head is finally staring back at me from that tiny LCD screen. Now, I hear many of you now "Raza, this picture is dark as shit how is that going to work?" Well children, I like shooting how most people like sex, RAW. For my non-photographers, RAW is a format a camera can save a picture as. For example, your run of the mill photo, like that selfie you just posted on instagram, is in a format called jpg (jay-peg). RAW is like a jpg on Steroids, PCP, and whatever that guy in Flordia that started eating faces took, all in one. It saves a lot more data than a standard photo so things that look completely dark are still registered and can be brought out in post editing. The only down side is a huge file size with the average being around 15mb PER image. Invest in large capacity (and fast writing) memory cards kids.
Post-Production aka WHY I ALWAYS SHOOT RAW!
Like I said before, ALWAYS SHOOT RAW. The amount of detail you get and how much you can manipulate the image before it starts looking distorted and noisy will make you a better tog and open the floodgates when it comes to post-production. Seriously, shoot RAW. Ok, so obviously you can see the difference between the final image and the SOOC (straight out of camera). Now if you'd like me to explain to you why I put things where I did, you can email me. I like everyone to know the concept and interpret the art on there own. Me telling you would be like a magician telling you how he does his trick while performing it. Where's the fun in that?